“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur: Analysis and Connections to Everyday Life

“The Writer” by Richard Wilbur

 Looking at “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur there is an extensive amount of entrapment imagery from the get go.   I noticed that right off the bat as Wilbur describes his daughter’s room as a place where “light breaks,” (2) which is because the windows are covered with linden, a tree with yellow and white flowers that can grow pretty quickly.  His daughter is shut in her room and all outsiders can hear is the noise of the keyboards.  Wilbur uses the simile: “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) when comparing her to her work on the keyboard.  Literally the chain is holding the gunwale or the upper edge of the vessel from moving.  Figuratively, his daughter is trapped in her room with her work and the ever changing noises of her keyboard.  This entrapment imagery continues over to the next creature locked in the room which is sterling, a type of bird.  This bird was trapped in this same room a few years earlier.  And again the rest of the people watched from a far as the creature was locked in the room.  I compared the bird and the daughter.  Ironically, while this bird is trapped in the room, the narrator and others watch the bird entrapped, confused, and struggling to break free.  Isn’t this similar to teenagers and their relationship with their parents?  When do parents know to step into their adolescent’s lives and when they should let them ride it out?  I feel that in both scenarios with the daughter and the bird it connects to someone just watching and no actions are actually being done.  The narrator watched both his daughter and the bird from afar while they are alone and entrapped not only physically in that room but also mentally.  Parents never know when is a good time to step into a child’s life or that room while instead they have this figurative barrier that they try not to touch. 


There is also a lot of traveling imagery, which I connected to a rite of passage for both the daughter and the bird.  Wilbur connects the area of the daughter’s room to the “prow,” a boat reference, to the location of the room in the house.  The simile: “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) also corresponds with that ongoing theme because a gunwale is the upper edge of the load of a ship or the side of a vessel.  The narrator figuratively compares her life to a great cargo and hopes that her future will be a lucky passage.  When I first read this stanza, I immediately imagined a passage over water; moreover, my mind went to the archetypical reference of the journey over water; a semblance of a rite of passage for this girl. As I kept reading, I was able to connect this rite of passage or journey to the bird too.  The narrator talks about the bird overcoming all its hardships “And clearing the sill of the world.”  (30) Moreover, the bird is getting ready to move forward on its journey into the real world.  It is now able to break free.


3 responses to ““The Writer” by Richard Wilbur: Analysis and Connections to Everyday Life

  • Roland Weary

    Richard Wilbur was once a mystery to me. I read all of his poems but it was as if I was reading a Tu Fu poem that had been translated from Chinese to Russian. Richard Wilbur may as well have been the full name of the pig from Charlotte’s Web for all I knew. Reading his poetry made me more confused than Derek Zoolander was when Jacobi Mugatu showed him the model of the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Who Wanna Learn to do Other Stuff Good Too but Derek didn’t know it was a model so he threw it off the table and declared that it had to be three times bigger. Sometimes Richard Wilbur would confuse me so much that I would just go off on tangents about beloved Ben Stiller movies, which may or may not have just happened. Me trying to decipher a Richard Wilbur poem was like James Brick Weaver (my friend’s pet chicken) trying to build a microwave oven out of only scotch tape. Even after a conference with my good friend FoFo, who is usually able to open my mind to more intellectual thinking, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around Richard Wilbur’s poems. When I tried to read them all I could hear in my head was Borat’s voice saying “You will never get this, you will never get this. Na na na na na you will never get this”.

    But then I read this and now I get it.

  • Shiva

    i think so much depends on the reader in this poem–whether a father or a daughter (or altogether a left-out other). as a father of a daughter, i don’t know if i can possibly see it any other way than that. and that revelation reminds me, reminds all of us i hope, that it’s our difference that counts. so much effort to find things in common when celebrating difference matters. think evolution.

  • Shiva

    roland weary, aka newt hoenikker, aka kilgore trout, aka rabo karabekian is a goofball.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: